Deebo Samuel has never lost to the Los Angeles Rams.
And no, it’s not a coincidence - Samuel has played against Los Angeles six times and has been an offensive catalyst for the San Francisco 49ers in all but his first of those matchups. He’s amassed 440 receiving yards, 104 rushing yards, and even threw a 24-yard touchdown pass in the most recent contest - 568 yards in total. Samuel has scored six total touchdowns in the same amount of games.
Part of Samuel’s success is the result of him being an almost-positionless layer and the fact he’s paired with a head coach in Kyle Shanahan that is not afraid to use him in non-traditional ways. At times Samuel may line up out wide or in the slot as a traditional receiver. The next play he might be in the backfield as a running back. He has lined up at tight-end, and he has taken direct snaps from the center.
Question to Deebo Samuel: “If you were to meet someone and they asked you what position you played, what would you say?”— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 14, 2022
Answer: “Wide back. Wide receiver playing running back.”
All Pro Wide Back. pic.twitter.com/qEZqGO2AF1
Samuel is a true enigma on the football field. The first step of finding him is difficult enough, but then you have to stop him - and that’s just not something the Rams have been able to do over the last few years.
While shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey can take away the best receiver on most NFL teams, the answer is not that simple versus San Francisco and Samuel. It’s not a product of talent - it’s that Ramsey can’t shadow a player that could line up anywhere on the field on any given play. It’s just too much to ask, even for someone like Ramsey.
And this challenges the Rams’ math on defense. Aaron Donald typically requires two blockers or else he will wreck your offensive game plan - Von Miller is the same way at times. Ramsey can take away your best receiver and his ability to play inside in the “star” position forces you to target him instead of avoiding his half of the field.
Samuel isn’t the only 49er that causes Los Angeles problems. George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk are also players that have talents outside of what is considered typical for their positions. Kittle is a scary receiving threat alone, but he also blocks as well as some tackles in the league. While fullbacks are basically dinosaurs in the modern NFL, Jusczczyk has not only survived extinction - he’s re-written the rules of the position with his contributions in the passing game.
The hard truth for the Rams is that, in the last six games against San Francisco, the 49ers’ star players on offense have just outplayed the Rams’ star players on defense. The most significant problem is not San Francisco is putting up a ton of points against Los Angeles, because that necessarily isn’t the case, it’s that the 49ers are able to put together long drives and control the clock - which reduces the number of opportunities the LA offense has to score.
These are the matchups that will determine the outcome of the NFC championship. In order for the Rams to advance to the 2022 Super Bowl, they need to have answers for Samuel, Kittle, and Jusczczyk - and they especially need to keep Samuel’s production in check. The 49ers offense goes as their star receiver goes, so limiting his impact on the game will give LA a decent shot at coming out on top.
Can the Rams finally stop Deebo Samuel?